21 April 2015

Mark Rylance by Dirk Bouts

When I am watching Mark Rylance as Cromwell in Wolf Hall on Masterpiece, I keep thinking how much he looks like any number of men in Early Netherlandish paintings ... not that I can find any real "separated at birth" comparison. You just have to be in love with that melancholy, thoughtful, mask-like but realistic, somber, still portrait style.
This is the "Justice of the Emperor Otto: The Ordeal by Fire" by Dirk Bouts, now in the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. (Photo from WikiArt) All of these faces are younger. The look is partly in the sad and unrevealing eyes and long straight nose but also in the beauty of the years that show in Rylance/Cromwell's face.

19 April 2015

Edward Durell Stone stayed at Malcontenta

When I was in Fayetteville, Arkansas, last month, I was looking at the 2011 book on Edward Durell Stone written by his youngest son, Hicks, also an architect. The older Stone designed the 1951 Fine Arts Center, housing the art library in which I was perusing the book.

I didn't get much chance to peruse the book so I've borrowed it on interlibrary loan. Hicks Stone mentions on page 197-198 that his father was staying at the Palladio villa in Mira, Villa Foscari, known at La Malcontenta, while he and his associates were working on the U.S. Pavilion for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels. Malcontenta is one of my favorite Palladio villas and it is intriguing to think that Stone was working on one of his important projects while staying there for the summer.

Hicks Stone started architecture school at the Harvard GSD in 1979, in the heyday of postmodernism, with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown and Michael Graves in the ascendance. When his modern architecture survey professor Alexander Tzonis reached Edward Stone's U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, the class hissed. Though Hicks and his father had been estranged since he was a child, Hicks was amazed, and continues to be amazed, that this early historicism was so derided.

12 April 2015

footnote from the road: Iké Udé portrait of the Duncans

As I was driving across Illinois after being in Saint Louis, the NPR station was broadcasting a story about Nebraska collectors Robert and Karen Duncan who commissioned an official portrait from Nigerian-born artist Iké Udé who now lives in New York City. The collectors live in Lincoln and they quoted the director of the Sheldon Museum of Art which I had happily visited on my way across Nebraska.
The portrait on display in the Duncan home. (Photo by Bill Kelly, NET News)
(from the NET Nebraska page)

11 April 2015

Frederic Remington

There was a memorial gathering for Winfield Fitz Randolph this afternoon. He had lived in Alfred until his wife Claire died in 2011, after which he went to live near his children in the North Country of New York State (near the Adirondacks, St Lawrence River, and Lake Champlain). Though I was acquainted with his sons and daughter from the 1960s, I don't think I'd seen them since then. Win and Claire were active in the Alfred Seventh-day Baptist Church so I had interacted with them in recent years, being back in Alfred.

The memorial gathering was hosted by the church in the Parish House parlors. I had helped (a little bit) in the setting up and was standing at the side as the folks came from the family graveside service to the reception. A woman came over and asked how I fit in the gathering. "A member of the church?" We got to talking and it turned out very quickly that we had Frederic Remington in common. She (Ann Spies, wife of Peter Fitz Randolph, son of Win and Claire) is on the board of the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, New York, so she knew about the Amon Carter Museum which has one of the premiere Remington collections. As a matter of fact, back in the 1950s, the Carter had bought a significant number of Remingtons from the Ogdensburg museum which was in great need of replacing the museum building's roof. Note that this was back in the day when museums were not as severely blacklisted as they are now for deaccessioning. The Remington Museum is now doing quite well and Ann spoke highly of the current director. As a further matter of fact, the museum's International Advisory Board is this weekend on a trip to Fort Worth for a gathering at the Carter.

Ann and Peter have lived in New York City so we had that ground to cover, along with "how do you find Alfred after living in the City?" Mostly it's OK but sometimes I really need a big dose of urban.

02 April 2015

art and agriculture ... and life and liberal arts

The weekly Bergren Forum at Alfred University is usually held in the Nevins Auditorium in Powell Campus Center. It was displaced to Seidlin Hall 114 this week, for "131: Endeavors in Art & Agriculture" by Cassandra Bull who is working on a bachelor's degree in the School of Art and Design as well as an associate degree in agricultural technology at Alfred State College.

Seidlin 114 is where I had physics in my freshman year of college (1964-1965) with George Towe. He gave us a lot of pop quizzes. One day, he asked us to describe something that related to a campus lecture the evening before. The lecture was unrelated to physics but Professor Towe had been struck by the fact that none of us had been at the lecture. He taught me a lesson about the value of a broad liberal arts education and diverse interests.

It was therefore fitting that Bull's project mixed art and science. For one of her agriculture classes, she had to live with a cow for 24 hours. The hours did not have to be consecutive. At the same time, she had an assignment in an art class to pick 25 words and turn them into a project. Her words:

Watching cows strap into milking machines
I see all the injustice we're told is necessity
As I shovel shit for something I don't believe in

She turned her horror at the dairy industry into a thought-piece on how you live with your concerns, how calves are taken from their mothers, how you mix aesthetics and content, how art and science influence and need each other. Bull made a pair of coveralls from Japanese mulberry stalks (kozo) to wear while she lived with her cow whose "name" was 131. The coveralls quickly became dirty and torn. When the professor Diane Cox encouraged her to continue, she wrote her field notes and statements about her experience and feelings about industrial agriculture on the coveralls. She then did a performance for her class in which she took off her street clothes, put on the coveralls and read the text, and then returned to her street clothes. She showed a video of the performance as part of her presentation today. What a powerful statement it was, picturing her description of the project.

I also could not help but think about some of the things I saw on my March road trip: the feedlots near Dalhart, Texas; the long barns in central Arkansas, presumably for chickens; the cattle and bison in fields in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Arkansas; the varying landscapes of the U.S. Lots to think about, mostly about how there is no absolute good, that art is mixed with life, that experience is important.

01 April 2015

road trip 2015: "today's Todi"

The road trip of March 2015, initiated by the thought that the VRA and ARLIS/NA conferences were close in time and distance, finally ended a couple days ago. Total distance was 5167 miles over 29 days with my car Hieronymus getting the day off while I attended a conference or visited friends.

When we were visiting the Renaissance gardens North of Rome in 1999, Christie suggested, out of the blue, my blue, that we stop in Todi on the way to Orvieto. Todi is the home of Santa Maria della Consolazione, an early 16th century church of Greek cross plan erroneously attributed to Bramante. You can read more about the history of the church by clicking on the name above.
It was a delightful addition to the itinerary. That trip also included a visit to the largely-abandoned hill town Bagnaregio and our 2001 trip to Emilia-Romagna included a stop in Fontanellato. Both of these stops were based on seeing a postcard in the more often visited town or city nearby, here, Bagnaia and Parma. Every trip should have some surprises, some impulsive additions to the itinerary, some Todis.

My 2015 road trip's "Todi" was the West Baden Springs Hotel. I determined, as I left Saint Louis, that my blue highway East would be U.S. 50 across southern Illinois and Indiana toward Cincinnati. As I was thinking about southern Indiana, some brain cell reminded me that there was a circular or polygonal springs hotel that had been derelict and threatened with demolition about 25 or 30 years ago. The name didn't come to me but I looked at the map and noticed the West Baden Springs Hotel, not far off U.S. 50. The hotel has been ostentatiously renovated and is now part of the French Lick Resort and Casino. Well, the hotel was grander in size and glory than I could have imagined. I didn't stay there but I did wallow in the luxury of a crème brûlée and latte at Ballards.

Now home, I have been feeling nostalgic for the road, for the experiences, and also significantly for the interaction with longtime friends and colleagues that I saw along the way.